Canada is 70 years a sanctuary for Ukrainian mother

Marta fled Ukraine during the Second World War and found refuge across the Atlantic. Now, after 70 years, she is proud to call Canada her home.

Marta fled Ukraine during World War II and found refuge in Canada.
© UNHCR/Annie Sakkab

After the Second World War forced Marta Waschuk and her family from Ukraine, it was Canada that finally offered them the promise of a brighter future in 1950.

The country did not disappoint. In Toronto, Marta met her beloved husband, Eugene. Together, they shared a deep reverence for traditions from their homeland and the challenge of balancing those with life in their new home country. “There are two different identities," she reflects. "You're a Canadian, but part of you is Ukrainian.”

When Eugene passed away, he opted not to have a traditional Ukrainian song played at his funeral. “He felt like Canada was his home,” says Marta.

Today, the walls of her house are lined with Canadian folk art, collected by her husband over the years from his travels across the country. And Marta’s eldest son, Roman, now serves as Canada’s ambassador to Ukraine.

“I feel Canadian – absolutely,” she says, 67 years after her arrival. “I'm staying put.”

Then and Now is a series of stories profiling refugees who have come to Canada over the years, in search of safety, stability and a chance at a better life. Starting from 1956, when Canada accepted its first major intake of refugees, the project uses archived images and family photos to tell the stories of refugees from Hungary, Viet Nam, Uganda, Somalia, Colombia, Cambodia, Burundi and El Salvador.